There were tears in Robin Nunnelly's eyes after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Friday. 

Nunnelly, who celebrated her 66th birthday Thursday, said she felt grateful to receive the vaccine at the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse.

"I think it will allow all of us to move forward and to be together with our families and friends again," Nunnelly said.

Nunnelly, who is from St. Louis, was one of many who traveled to Columbia to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the first state-sponsored vaccination clinic in Columbia.

Sarah McGuirk, 29, also from St. Louis area, received her first dose of the vaccine. While she was nervous to get the vaccine because of her pregnancy, she feels that "the benefits outweigh the risks." She also said she believes in the importance of trusting science and listening to experts.

McGuirk said she still feels the need to be cautious, but is more confident now that she is vaccinated. She has a job that requires her to work in-person. Nunnelly shared the same sentiment and does not plan on changing her behavior until she receives her second dose, but even then, she said she still plans on being "cautious for the rest of the year."

Bruce Alspaugh, 55, of Columbia, said he was not nervous about receiving his vaccine. For him, it could not come soon enough. Alspaugh considers receiving the vaccine "quite important" and being vaccinated means he is one day closer to seeing his grandchildren and other family members. 

Organizers hoped to vaccinate 2,300 residents. Multiple groups came together to make this possible, including the Missouri National Guard, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Boone County Office of Emergency Management, Columbia Parks and Recreation, MU Health Care and others. 

"A huge thank you to our community partners for helping make this day possible. We have staff who their job is to plan for these types of events and to prepare for emergencies," said Sara Humm, public information specialist at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. "They do a great job, but they don't do it alone."

Residents eligible to receive the vaccine at the event Friday included Phase 1A; Phase 1B, Tier 1; and Phase 1B, Tier 2 residents. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

The longest part of the process to get vaccinated was the 15 minute waiting period after receiving the shot, explained Rebecca Estes, the senior planner at the health department. This was to make sure there were no adverse reactions. If necessary, an ambulance was nearby.

"We have lots of staff and volunteers not only from our organization, but many other organizations here to help make this happen," Humm said. "So far it's been really smooth."

Other organizers agreed.

"I'm very pleased," Estes said. "Our partners all seem to have a good understanding of what their role is and how they are fitting in."

One of Estes' roles at the health department was to help prepare and plan the mass vaccination clinic. The health department started looking for sites to host a vaccination clinic a month ago even before the county was selected for a state-sponsored vaccination event. 

In the case of leftover vaccines, anyone who did not have an appointment but still came to the mass vaccination clinic was able to leave their information.

Of the 2,300 vaccine doses, 1,802 were used at the event Friday. In an email after the conclusion of the clinic, Humm said remaining doses would be distributed to people who are homebound and other local vaccinators. 

Those who received their first dose Friday will be asked to return at the same time at Columbia Sports Fieldhouse on April 2 to receive their second dose.

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • General Assignment Reporter, Spring 2021 Studying Journalism with an emphasis in Magazine Writing Reach me at, or in the newsroom at (573) 882-5700

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